I am very pleased that the participants of the Light and Zhegla study shared in the article “Experiments with Teaching to Improve Student Learning: Part I ” point to the growing emphasis on teaching as the biggest change in the culture of their university in the last 10 years. But while research of this type is worth pursuing, there are two areas of considerable concern.
First, that effective teaching methods are unknown and need to be “discovered”. In fact, there is a wide range of effective approaches to teaching that promote equality. These published pedagogies are supported by research and codified in generally accepted statements on teaching practice, such as the effective framework of ACUE practice.
Secondly, the best teaching is a personal responsibility, and teachers on the islands can find out for themselves through “experiments” in the classroom. Rather, the leading opinions of politicians in places like States Education Commission and American Academy of Arts and Sciences call for a holistic response throughout the institution. This provides an opportunity to create a culture – complete with professional incentives and employment incentives – that values excellent teaching and expects teachers to hone their skills. Such diverse places as University of Southern Mississippi, City University of New York, Broward College and public HBCU across the country lead through this approach and achieve real results, among them: higher student achievement, higher content and bridged gaps in equity.
Certainly, excellent learning requires a career to master and requires learning new approaches, trial and error through implementation, reflection and improvement. Undoubtedly, some experiments are taking place. While I’m excited that the 17 professors surveyed see “greater emphasis on strengthening teaching,” let’s do it in the most effective way: with comprehensive training included in the work, in proven core practices, and through a strategic, institutional approach. Our nearly 20 million students and their faculty at colleges and universities across the country deserve no less.
Chief Research Fellow
Association of Teachers of Colleges and Universities